Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I'm Down With It

Three Unbroken: Free Fiction Online

Today, Chris Roberson begins serializing his forthcoming novel, Three Unbroken, on the Solaris Books website. Three Unbroken is a tale from his Celestial Empire sequence, an alternate history where a Chinese empire dominates the earth, beginning sometime in our shared past and continuing into their space-fairing age. In Three Unbroken, we see the Chinese at war with an Aztec empire for control of the planet Mars, as presented through the eyes of three members of the Dragon Throne's armed services. The first story just went up, "Hexagram 1 - Pure Yang: Below Heaven Above Heaven."

The Celestial Empire sequence began way back when with the short "O One" in my own anthology Live Without a Net, and continued in a series of stories published in various venues (Chris aggregates their appearances here on a checklist). They include the PS Publishing novella, The Voyage of Night Shining White and the forthcoming Firebird young adult work, Iron Jaw & Hummingbird. In February, Solaris will publish The Dragon's Nine Sons in mass-market. Me, I can't wait.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Getting It Off My Chest

This weekend, I heard from one of my authors that someone had said to them that their sale of an original novel to Pyr was doubly-impressive because, "Lou Anders pretty much only buys stuff that's been previously published in England and Australia." And then, a day later, a friend of mine asked me a question about editing that began, "[since] it seems like the majority of books Pyr prints are US releases of previously published books in the UK and Australia..."

The proximity of these two conversations got me thinking. So I pulled out our catalog, and I counted. We launched Pyr in March, 2005, and we have officially confirmed and announced our publication schedule through August 2008. So looking at those 52 titles:
  • 23 are original works, never published anywhere before the Pyr editions.
  • 23 titles debuted in the UK or Australia first.
  • 6 titles are reprints (of US originals)
So we've actually published exactly the same amount of original fiction as US reprints of overseas debuts. (And quite a lot of it too, for just around two and a half years.) And the "majority" of our books are US in origin, whether original or reprint. We have original fiction published and forthcoming from the very talented likes of Fiona Avery, Michael Blumlein, Keith Brooke, David Louis Edelman, Charles Coleman Finlay, Alan Dean Foster, Theodore Judson, Kay Kenyon, Alexis Glynn Latner, Scott Mackay, Ian McDonald, Michael Moorcock, Mike Resnick, and Chris Roberson.

Ian McDonald? you say. But isn't he British, living in Britain and publishing in Britain first? Here it should be pointed out that while we followed the initial UK publication of River of Gods by some time, his latest novel, Brasyl, is a first edition original. We bought directly from McDonald, he delivered to us, we published 1.5 months before the UK edition, and the UK edition was set from our copy edits, which we provided as a courtesy to the UK publisher. So I'm counting that one as original to Pyr.

Which is not to say that I don't love me my UK and Australian speculative fiction novels, or that I won't continue to bring the best of it across to a deserving American readership, because, well, this stuff is good and it should be published over here. I strongly believe doing so has real value. But I'm a little rankled that there is a perception that that's all we do, as it gives short shrift to our equally great original talents. David Louis Edelman's Infoquake was nominated for the Campbell Memorial Award. Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky was chosen by PW as one of the Best SF&F Books published in 2007. Alan Dean Foster's Sagramanda was proclaimed by Asimov's the best novel he has yet written in all his long career. Statements like the ones above don't do them justice.

'sall I'm saying.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Marketing the Big Three, Part 2

So, to recap: Warren Ellis posts the SF Magazine Sales for 2006, asking how (and if) the speculative fiction magazines can be saved. "Someone recently said to me, 'Well, what could you do to save them?' And I said, well, no-one’s asking, but there’s probably about twelve things that could be done. And they said, 'Well, maybe, but what I really meant was — why try? Why not just bury them and start anew?'

Cory Doctorow responds with SF magazines' circulation numbers in sad decline, in which he says: "If I were running the mags, I'd pick a bunch of sfnal bloggers and offer them advance looks at the mag, get them to vote on a favorite story to blog and put it online the week before the issue hits the stands. I'd podcast a second story, and run excerpts from the remaining stories in podcast. I'd get Evo Terra to interview the author of a third story for The Dragon Page. I'd make every issue of every magazine into an event that thousands of people talked about, sending them to the bookstores to demand copies -- and I'd offer commissions, bonuses, and recognition to bloggers who sold super-cheap-ass subscriptions to the print editions."

Then John Scalzi's "The Big Three" comes along to suggest it may not matter. "The big three can still be relevant, mind you; I suspect Asimov’s was essential in bootstrapping Charles Stross into being the decade’s pre-eminent SF writer when it published the short stories that would eventually become the Hugo-nominated novel Accelerando. Likewise, Tim Pratt’s Hugo win this year is going to do great things for him moving forward. That said, I can think of more prominent SF writers published since 2000 who have gotten along without the benefit of exposure in the 'Big Three' than who have been helped by them."

All of which prompts Paolo Bacigalupi to weigh in with five posts:
Science Fiction Magazines Part I - Why are the "Big Three" Dying?
Science Fiction Magazines Part II - Marketing in Meatspace
Science Fiction Magazines Part III - Online Marketing
Science Fiction Magazines Part IV - Starting from Scratch
SF Mags V - An SF Magazine for Girls?

Along the way, Paolo proclaims, "It says something about the state of the written sf market when we sf writers have a hard time connecting with the users of something as wildly popular as Halo. Technically, these users should be our bread and butter — and don’t tell me they don’t read. YA is doing just fine, and manga, too." Which leads him to propose a new magazine aimed at young male readers.

Then Homeless Moon offers "An Open-Source Speculative Fiction Magazine Model," which shifts the focus from marketing alone to online marketing which builds community. "What the Big Three have done effectively, and what constitutes a tribute to their longevity (which, in the big scope, is noteworthy), is build community. That is ultimately what online marketing exists to do, and represents a shift in the technology and approach to marketing as a whole. Saturation advertising has a provable low turnaround; high precision viral marketing is exponentially more effective (and I strongly believe that anyone running a small business today really needs to read that book I just linked). Get the viral going and use it to carefully cultivate a sustainable growing community and you generate an engine that feeds itself, markets for you, and brings in both business and revenue. The Big Three have lasted this long because of that construction of brand identity and community, to which subscribers develop loyalty and emotional attachment."

And then Homeless Moon lays out a very interesting plan for building a magazine from scratch, several excellent suggestions of which I'll consider further to see if they have any relevant applications for me and mine.

Meanwhile SpecLit weighs in with "Digest Blues: The Lament of the Big Three," which takes us back to the start a little bit when they argue that the digests have lost their relevance and make a case for a need to update their design. "What were once vital and important arbiters of taste in speculative fiction have descended into myopia. They are no longer the touchstones of the genre community. Instead, they are read by a decreasing number of entrenched fans."

While not as indepth as the discussions on and Homeless Moon, the follow up post, Digest Blues, Part Two," is very interesting, in that SpecLit has done actual mock-ups of three alternatives to current Asimov's, Analog, and F&SF covers. The results, though hastily done and not meant as anything but examples, certainly demonstrate how effortlessly the look and feel of the Big Three could be brought forward without sacrificing their sfnal elements or going to great expense.

Of course, as all of this discussion is raging across the blogosphere the way things do, I can't help but feeling a little bit like everyone at the party is talking about someone who is standing right there in the middle of the room and didn't ask for the advice, thank you very much. Maybe the Big Three are fine with the way they are running things. (In fairness, two of the above discussions, again Windupstories and Homeless Moon, either shift focus to or focus exclusively on new models for new magazines, rather than strategies for the Big Three.) And F&SF publisher Gordon Van Gelder does pop up in Paolo's comment sections to make these points: "1) As far as I can tell, in all the discussions predicated upon the assumption that the SF digests are doomed, no one has actually addressed the question of whether the magazines are profitable. Everyone simply seems to have assumed that if circulation decreases, profits decrease. Not necessarily so. 2) I note also that everyone has lumped all three digests together, even though all three of us have differing markets and differing approaches. Some of the problems facing F&SF are different from the problems facing Analog. Naturally, the marketing approach for one digest might not work for another."

Which, interestingly, makes me think of this Newsweek article on Amazon's newly-unveiled Kindle, "The Future of Reading," in which Steven Levy makes the following point:

"Talk to people who have thought about the future of books and there's a phrase you hear again and again. Readers will read in public. Writers will write in public. Readers, of course, are already enjoying a more prominent role in the literary community, taking star turns in blogs, online forums and Amazon reviews. This will only increase in the era of connected reading devices. 'Book clubs could meet inside of a book,' says Bob Stein, a pioneer of digital media who now heads the Institute for the Future of the Book... Eventually, the idea goes, the community becomes part of the process itself."

Which, at the very least, means the party is going to go on talking. If Homeless Moon is correct, the Big Three are even enjoying a great deal of Viral Marketing right now, just by standing there amidst all this discussion pointed back at them. After all, as Mae West says, “It is better to be looked over than overlooked.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just for the Record: Ian McDonald's Brasyl

I updated my files on all the good words re: Ian McDonald’s Brasyland just had to share:

Quill nominee, Amazon’s Best Books of the Year So Far: Hidden Gems, # 2 in Amazon’s Best Books of 2007 - Top 10 Editors’ Picks: Science Fiction & Fantasy,’s Summer Reading Recommendation, Starred Review in PW, Starred Review in Booklist, A grade in SciFi Weekly, B+ in Entertainment Weekly.

  • USA Today: “...the most rewarding science fiction in recent memory.”
  • Washington Post: “... as close to perfect as any novel in recent memory.”
  • Boing Boing: “...his finest novel to date.”
  • “ will delight in Brasyl.”
  • Amazon’s Bookstore Blog: “McDonald deserves to be going up against most of the world’s top fiction writers, period.”
  • Ain’t It Cool News: “ just end up hating this guy for being so damn clever.”
  • Sci Fi Weekly: “ and tropical and full of music.”
  • Publishers Weekly: “Chaotic, heartbreaking and joyous, ... must-read.”
  • Locus: “...without doubt one of the major SF books of 2007.”
  • Analog: “an impressively energetic novel…well worth your attention.”

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fast Forward 1: An Encouraging Glimpse of the Future

Aaron Hughes, over on Fantastic Reviews, has some thoughts on my anthology, Fast Forward 1: Future Fiction from the Cutting Edge.Aaron begins by rounding up some recent notable anthologies, and then says that Fast Forward 1, "...may prove more important than any of these, because it is the first in a planned series of unthemed original anthologies - something that has not been done effectively since Patrick Nielsen Hayden's Starlight series from 1996 to 2001. It is nice to see Pyr, a relatively new SF publisher, using the original anthology format to showcase its brand of literary yet entertaining SF."

Aaron particularly likes the book's novella, as he writes, "For my money, the single best story in Fast Forward 1 is 'Sideways from Now' by John Meaney, a British author who is fast becoming one of my favorites. 'Sideways from Now' combines familiar SF tropes such as telepathy and alternate universes, but weaves them together in very original ways, blending two disparate styles." Aaron goes on to make comparisons to Meaney's story-within-a-story to the New Weird, then adds, "At 69 pages, 'Sideways from Now' is the longest story in the book, but so richly layered that it is difficult to believe Meaney was able to contain the tale in as few pages. I will certainly be nominating this story for a Hugo Award, for it is inconceivable that there could be five better novellas published this year."

Aaron also likes stories by Stephen Baxter, Elizabeth Bear, Robert Charles Wilson, Paul Di Filippo and others, and concludes, "this book demonstrates what a variety of authors and stories science fiction can encompass. By its wide array of different approaches to the future, Fast Forward 1 gives us an encouraging glimpse into the future of science fiction."

He also made an interesting observation, which may be relevant to recent discussions of the decline of digest magazines and the rise of several new annual, unthemed SF volumes in Fast Forward's wake: "There is precedent for original anthologies filling the void when print magazines suffer a period of decline. When multiple digests folded in the late 1960's and early 70's, anthologies such as Orbit, Universe, New Dimensions, and Dangerous Visions picked up the slack. (Notably, stories from original anthologies received over 40 Hugo nominations in the 1970's, after print magazines had accounted for all but one of the short fiction nominations before 1968.)"

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bless This Man !!

From the, IN CONVERSATION . . . With Michael Chabon, an interview conducted by Julie Phillips (NBCC and Hugo Award winning author of James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon.)

Phillips: Gentlemen of the Roadgives me the impression that you had a lot of fun writing it but aren't entirely convinced by the world you've created. Do you think you will ever really break into science fiction? Or are you doomed to keep coming back to literature?

Chabon: I believed every single word of it with every fiber of my being, actually! Writing it wasn't just fun, it was deep and magical -- I traveled. As for science fiction, it is literature, as you very well know, my dear. The gates between the kingdoms are infinitely wide and always open!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

World Fantasy Convention 2007

I'm back from the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY, which was held Nov 1 to 5th, and was, due to World Con being overseas this year and the proximity of NYC, the largest World Fantasy ever at membership capped at over 1,140 people. As always, this - my favorite convention every year - was a truly fantastic experience.

The core of my time was hanging with old friends Chris Roberson, Allison Baker, John Picacio, Karen Jones, Jennifer Heddle, Paul Cornell, Deanna Hoak, David Louis Edelman, Paul Cornell, George Mann and with him, new friend Marc Gascoigne (both of Solaris books and pictured here with Justin Gustainis, author of the their forthcoming title, Black Magic Woman). Also was ecstatic to get some real time with Pyr authors Charles Coleman Finlay, there with his lovely new wife, and Alan Dean Foster, who I don't see enough of but relish our talks when I do. And Acacia author David Anthony Durham and I had enough interrupted conversations to aggregate them into one real one. Scott Lynch was very nice, if very much in demand. Hal Duncan was his wonderful self. Many thanks to my friends Paul Barnett (aka John Grant) and Pamela D. Scoville for batteries when my camera died with its lens extended. (There they are on the right. Aren't they cute?)

I love Irene Gallo, so it's a shame this time we didn't get much time together apart from our panel on cover art Saturday, where we were joined by Tom Kidd, John Picacio, and Jacob Weisman. The room was packed and it was a large room. Irene usually sits in the audience in these panels, when she should be leading them. She moderated this one and did a fantastic job. Meanwhile, I am increasingly confident about my ability to say something meaningful on the topic as I get asked to speak about it more and more these days. Oddly, even though that's about all I saw of Irene, I feel like I did get time with her; I just got it in front of a packed house is all! (Pictured left is C.E. Murphy and Paul Cornell.)

Saturday night was the Third and Final Orbit Launch Party, a private function held in a restaurant offsite called Tiznow, with about 100 industry professionals in attendance. Quite a shindig. Good talk with Night Shade's Jeremy Lassen. And it was there I got to finally catch up with their author, Jon Armstrong, whose Grey really made an impression on me. I'm still trying to get him to read David Louis Edelman and both of them to read Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron. I'm getting closer to this goal, though, as Edelman has read Grey and Armstrong emailed me to ask about Spinrad. I followed Orbit with drinks with Rome Quezada, the new head of the Science Fiction Book Club, back at the hotel, who I have never met before and is a very nice guy.

Stayed up till 5:60am (I swear that's what the clock said) Saturday night. Was talking around 3ish with David Palumbo, also a very nice guy, a promising illustrator, and the son of Julie Bell and step-son of my childhood hero Boris Vallejo (who I also got to meet in the art show earlier). A bit of synchronicity. Dan Dos Santos did the cover for our forthcoming reissue of Mike Resnick's Stalking the Unicorn. Palumbo modeled for him as the detective in the trench coat without knowing his dad did the original 1980s painting! How cool is that?

Then Todd Lockwood, who I didn't yet know and had been trying to meet all weekend, joined us, and we ended up discussing SF till very, very late. Then I got dragged out to breakfast by Chris Roberson, Allison Baker, Hal Duncan, Jim Minz, Liz Gorinsky, Jetse de Vries. (Klima, were you there too?) This morphed into a room party in Minz and Klima's, which is why the clock said 5:60. Then up two hours later to prepare for (a second) breakfast with Locus at 10 am. It took me a bit to get started, but Liza Trombi and I ended up talking for several very enjoyable hours. Right up till time to get ready for the awards banquet, about which I remember next to nothing. (Pictured upper right: Paul Cornell, David Louis Edelman, Garth Nix & John Picacio. Pictured left: Deanna Hoak, nominated in the category of Special Award Professional and Doctor Who scribe Paul Cornell, who lead the Deanna Hoak World Fantasy Awards Campaign.)

The rest of the day was spent on empty, though I managed to rouse myself for a final dinner with editor George Mann and publisher Marc Gascoigne of Solaris Books. Solaris are releasing my next anthology, Sideways in Crime, June '08. We're also entering into a very exciting venture with them around the same time, with the simultaneous publication of David Louis Edelman's Infoquake in mass market from Solaris and sequel MultiReal in trade paperback from Pyr. (Here is David between his two editors.)

And that wraps up the convention. Special thanks to Joe McCabe for keeping Picacio awake Sunday night, and hence, me as well. We got up at 5:45am to head to the airport. Felt great. I owe you one, buddy.

Now here's the Google Alert shout out to all the wonderful people I hung with over the weekend: Kim Newman, Karen Jones, Jennifer Heddle, Deanna Hoak, Sophia Quach (is it Quach-McCabe now?), Cheryl Morgan, Jeremy Lassen, Jess Nevins, Rani Graff, Liz Scheier, Liza Trombi, Jim Minz, John Klima, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., Ted Chiang, Jae Brim, Scott Cupp, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfeld, Steve Erickson, Jo Fletcher, and whatever wonderful person or persons I've omitted. Folks I missed seeing and really wanted to include Don Maass, Nancy Kress, Patrick Rothfuss.

Finally, John Picacio has a convention report on his blog, David Anthony Durham here, and David Louis Edelman has one in three parts.

And that's it for me. After resisting it all weekend, I have brought the con bug back with me, where it is making itself at home amid the entire Anders household.

Brasyl in USA Today

Ian McDonald finds himself part of a SF Book Feature in today's issue of USA Today (circulation 1,618, 000). I haven't seen the paper yet myself, so all I've seen is this quote, which heaps more praise on his latest novel, Brasyl:

"...The overall result is the most rewarding science fiction in recent memory." USA Today

Update: The entire USA Today article is online here.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Brasyl: Amazon's Best Books of 2007

Amazon has posted their Best Books of 2007 - Top 10 Editors' Picks: Science Fiction & Fantasy list. And Ian McDonald's Brasylis NUMBER TWO on the list. Why tremendously welcome news, this is perhaps not surprising given that Brasyl previously appeared in their Best Books of the Year So Far: Hidden Gems list, though that list was not restricted to genre (or even to fiction), whereas this one is for SF&F titles.

Why, one might be forced to conclude that Brasyl is one of the best books of the year period, in and out of genre, wouldn't one? Certainly Amazon agrees, as they wrote that "with Brasyl he has proven once again that he should be reckoned as one of the finest of all our novelists." Whereas the Washington Post said, "Ian McDonald's Brasyl, with its three storylines, is as close to perfect as any novel in recent memory." Then there's the Quill Award nomination, and, of course,'s Recommended Summer Reading List. And, at this point, I would be remiss not to mention the sample chapters online, wouldn't I?

A very big congratulations to Ian from everyone at Pyr/Prometheus!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Marketing the Big Three

My friend and exceptional writer Paolo Bacigalupi has posted three linked articles on the state of the "big three" science fiction digests and what can be done to boost their circulation numbers. I rarely just point and say "go," but in this instance, I will:

Science Fiction Magazines Part I - Why are the "Big Three" Dying?

Paolo says: "There’s been a fair amount of talk about the die-off in the short fiction magazine markets. Interestingly, this is often played as indicating their loss of relevance either generationally (sf market is aging) or else technologically (The internet is where it’s at! All else will crumble and fall before it!) or else in the business model - (free content will triumph over paid content). My perception however is that there are some specific things going on with the major sf magazines that heavily affect their success, and it doesn’t have much to do with the themes above. "

Science Fiction Magazines Part II - Marketing in Meatspace

Paolo says: "More than anything - more than changing demographics, or the advent of new technologies, or the rise of free content - I have a sense that the loss of sf readers for the 'big three' markets is actually a failure of marketing and core circulation management practices, not of the sf market as a whole. I just don’t see the big three doing a lot with their current subscriber base and I don't see them actively reaching out much. On one level this has to do with things like the appearance of their websites, whether they offer exciting subscription enticements, etc (which I'll go into later). But even more, it relates to how they use something decidedly unsexy: direct mail. ....Overall, I think the institutional barriers in the magazines may be significantly more problematic for them than the actual state of the SF market."

Science Fiction Magazines Part III - Online Marketing

Paolo says: "My sense of the online sphere is that it remains a place of opportunity rather than threat for a print magazine. Over time, this may change, but the internet provides the best place to attract pre-qualified subscribers, to build a relationship with them, and then to convert them to paying subscribers. Unlike direct mail, this is an area where initial sunk costs continue to pay off over time, and where simple changes can have positive ripple effects far down the line. It also seems like the barriers to change are fewer than in completely revamping the way they do direct mail."

Bright of the Sky: PW's Best Books of the Year 2007

This week's Publishers Weekly Cover Story is their Editor Picks for PW's Best Books of the Year 2007.

According to PW, three thousand books are published daily in the U.S., and PW reviewed more than 6,000 of them in 2007, in print and online. From that astounding number, they've culled a best books list covering their favorites in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, comics, religion, lifestyle and children's—150 in all. (That's right, only 150 total books from 6,000 reviewed titles.) And in the SF/Fantasy/Horror category PW selected only seven titles, one of which, we are very pleased to say, is our very own Bright of the Sky: Book One of The Entire and the Rose!

Congratulations to Kay Kenyon from everyone at Pyr/Prometheus! We couldn't be happier!

PW says, "Deft prose, high-stakes suspense and skilled, thorough world building lift this first in a new far-future SF series involving a mishap in interstellar space that sends a family into a parallel universe." Remember, you can read an excerpt from Bright of the Sky here. And feel free to drop by Kay's Journal and congratulate her here.